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Colorado County Spent $88 a Day Jailing Defendants Who Couldn't Pay $55 Fee

Judge orders an end to the practice after the ACLU sued.

via ACLUvia ACLUJasmine Still, a 26-year-old woman with a newborn, spent 27 days in a Colorado jail after a judge approved her release on her own recognizance.

Why? Still couldn't pay the $55 "pre-trial services fee," charged by El Paso County, so the county spent nearly $2,400 to keep her in jail, according to a lawsuit filed on her behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Colorado.

Still, arrested in January after her mother reported her to police over a small bag of meth, pleaded guilty so she wouldn't have to stay in jail any longer, her lawsuit says.

In the last year, nearly 300 people in El Paso County had their jail stays extended because of a failure to pay the pre-trial services fee, according to the ACLU. This week, in response to the ACLU lawsuit, El Paso County's top judge, 4th Judicial District Chief Judge William Bain, ordered the county to release defendants who are granted personal recognizance bonds the day the bond is issued.

El Paso County public information officer Dave Rose defended the program in an interview with local KKTV. "Pretrial Services is a way to get people out of jail who are waiting for trial," Rose said, "and it's a way to lessen the impact on the accused and also reduce the cost of overcrowding and reduce the cost of operating the El Paso County Jail."

The county should not have faced a lawsuit to end the practice of keeping people released on their own recognizance in jail at a rate of $88 a day because they can't pay a one-time $55 fee. Common sense, often absent in the criminal justice system, should dictate that.

Too often, the system's driving force is perpetuating itself. Keeping people in jail for failing to pay a fee that's supposed to facilitate their release makes sense only in that context. It keeps the wheels of justice spinning, which keeps a lot of people employed.

It's hard, too, not to think some prosecutors abuse scenarios like this to extract just the kind of resolution that happened in Still's case—a defendant taking a plea deal to get out of the situation of languishing in jail over an unpaid fee.

Guilty or not, defendants pay when prosecutors choose to target them. It's a system with little incentive, outside of lawsuits like the ACLU's, to become less burdensome for defendants. Were prosecutors forced to pay for their lack of common sense, that would quickly change.

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  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    We just need to make the fine a minimum of $88/day of possible jail.

    Problem solved.

  • Microaggressor||

    "It's not about revenue, it's about fairness"
    -Some unimportant guy

  • Hicks||

    Let me guess...
    A Comedian?

  • sarcasmic||

    It's a process of self selection. People who make their career in criminal justice tend to be mean, spiteful creatures who take pleasure in doing harm to human beings. I doubt it is more a lack of common sense or a hardon for a plea deal than simply enjoying the power to ruin lives.

  • L.G. Balzac||

    you need to change your handle

  • Tony||

    It's them vs. a population of potential thugs.

    I like when they make commercials about how they're coming after you, like we're supposed lick their nuts in admiration of their virile power to ruin people's lives over nothing.

  • Brother Kyfho||

    Hopefully not the last time I say this, but

    Great comment, Tony. It was sensible, factual, compassionate, and showed an understanding of the Nature of Things.

  • Ron||

    rediculous, however I always find it amazing that people who can afford drugs can't afford their bail? Are drug free nowadays

  • Ornithorhynchus||

    What's so amazing about that? If you've already spent your money on drugs, obviously you won't have enough left for bail.

    Duh.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Maybe they can turn tricks for drugs. Can't turn tricks for bail.

  • Mitsima||

    Nope, but you can for smokes and longer visitation hours, and isn't that what it's all about (I mean, besides the hokey pokey and all)?

  • Ornithorhynchus||

    Sounds like she has a really horrible mother.

  • Brother Kyfho||

    Naaah, Mom probably knows that the daughter has a bad problem and that her grand-baby is probably in danger from daughter's using, and wants to keep the baby safe.

    Or is just a hater. We'll never know.

  • Brother Kyfho||

    Naaah, Mom probably knows that the daughter has a bad problem and that her grand-baby is probably in danger from daughter's using, and wants to keep the baby safe.

    Or is just a hater. We'll never know.

  • Brother Kyfho||

    Naaah, Mom probably knows that the daughter has a bad problem and that her grand-baby is probably in danger from daughter's using, and wants to keep the baby safe.

    Or is just a hater. We'll never know.

  • Mitsima||

    Sounds like a really horrible daughter. Bring drugs into my house? Hell nah. #civilassetforfeiture

  • Jimbo||

    They make it up in volume!

  • mtrueman||

    "Were prosecutors forced to pay for their lack of common sense, that would quickly change."

    Shooting a prosecutor for lacking common sense is a little harsh, don't you thing?

  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    I love my thing!

  • Mitsima||

    No more than caging a person for growing and smoking a plant, but that's my perspective.

  • Sewblon||

    I am from El Paso county.

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